I have made a mistake. As some, or a few, or several, or none (I really have no idea) may have noticed, I never wrote a review for both “Adventures In Babysitting” and “Time After Time.” While I had given myself a few good reasons for not doing this, it was only this week that I realized it was all a bunch of bunk.
Truth be told, I felt like the reviews had gotten kind of stale lately. I thought my “Death’s Door” review was one of the best ones I’ve ever written, but then again I had some extraordinary material to work with. The real challenge came with the lesser, aka “filler” episodes. My criticisms were going on to be a broken record. I start writing and pretty soon I’m humming Herman Hermit’s “Henry The Eighth I am” to my self (Second verse, same as the first…). A lot of repetition with little substance.
It was also words that a dear friend of mine, Maureen Ryan, said in her parting review for Supernatural that got me thinking. I talked at length with Mo at the Salute To Supernatural con in Chicago in October and her frustrations with the show were very clear. She even that weekend wrote up a tough love intervention based on our discussion along with Lynn and Kathy of Fangasm. Instead, with that article and a review she did for “The Mentalists” she got an earful from vocal fans that shouted her down for excessive negativity.
Mo’s issues with writing reviews were the same as mine. As she said in her article, “Why I Gave Up Weekly Winchester Reviews,” “…The show used to be a model of consistency. It never really strayed outside of certain quality parameters.” Once it strayed, the happiness of the reviews strayed as well. It was this point though of Mo’s that made me step back from writing reviews. “The lack of consistency in the writing is leading to more arguments among fans.”
I’m an analytical person by nature. I don’t just judge an episode on whether or not Jared or Jensen rocked it that day (and they always do). I have always thoroughly analyzed the writing and it really kills me that they’ve given me plenty of ammunition in the last two seasons. I’ve always looked at directing, lighting, set decoration, hair, the total package, as well as the writing and acting. I’m always more impressed with an episode that involves a total group achievement. These past two seasons, I’ve tended to not to look at all those other elements as closely because the writing has become so baffling. It’s like trying to figure out the color of the carpeting when there’s a giant elephant filling the room.
Bottom line, I wasn’t sure I was doing a service anymore to this fandom by writing reviews. I couldn’t pretend to be the upbeat happy fan. I’ve always chosen to tell it like it is, and it felt like I was pissing off a lot of people recently. There’s a massive flaw in that logic though. Unlike Mo, I can’t quit. I am the creator/administrator/head writer for a successful Supernatural fan site. I built a reputation first at Blogcritics and then here for being a strong Supernatural episode reviewer. I’m the only person that has been writing reviews since we started, and to this day I’m still the most popular (I’m not bragging, I’m talking known statistics). We have a wide spectrum of reviews on this site and having a critical thinker only adds to our variety. That’s the type of edge we’re losing by me not doing reviews.
I went through a lot of my old reviews to remind myself how I used to do them. It wasn’t always pure Supernatural love. When I loved an episode I said so, when I had issues with an episode I said so, when the episode stunk like the piles of dog crap in my yard I said so. I was always cautious of tone though. In order to produce a seemingly objective review (a hard plight for a hard core Supernatural fan) criticisms need to be well worded and fair. As for praise, it’s okay to let the inner fan girl slip once in a while. Girlfriend needs to be unleashed from her box once in a while.
So, what I’m really trying to say through all this self indulgent monologuing is, I need to be giving you all fair reviews that involve total honesty. Ones designed to make you think, even though I’m aware most of you rarely agree with me 100 percent. That’s actually an awesome trait with this fandom. “Agree to disagree” is a favorite term of mine. Anything else is a cop out and not worth mine or your time.
This review may be late, and certainly not welcome at this point, but I need to go back and right a wrong. I got started in this business with one simple rule, even if one person reads my stuff, I’m doing something right. That might be all I get this go around and that’s okay.
Without further delay, here’s my review for “Adventures In Babysitting.”
Adventures In Babysitting
Supernatural has always done so many things right. I do find it mind boggling though that consistently every season this show has done such amazing mid season finales only to come back after a long break with mediocre filler. This episode really didn’t have much to live up to. It was in the same class of episodes like “Playthings,” “Family Remains,” “Sam, Interrupted,” and “Like A Virgin.” It so…didn’t even live up to even those.
I certainly would not rank “Adventures In Babysitting” as the worst of the many recent fillers we’ve gotten. “Defending Your Life” still takes that title. I actually liked that the episode didn’t go for the anvils over Bobby’s death and instead chose to show two guys that were just silently suffering in their own ways. It goes to show that these losses still do hurt, but they’re far beyond the days of weepy melodrama that came with say John Winchester’s death in season two. (That’s not a criticism. I’m just saying they’ve evolved).
It did hate however the “Week One,” “Week Two,” “Week Three” shout out to Twilight (no, I don’t know which movie) at the beginning. It just didn’t seem appropriate here. Shout outs are best served during the lighter moments. Or when they’re totally badass, like when Bobby tells Robo-Sam with an axe “Don’t say ‘Here’s Johnny.'” Otherwise, they’re contrived. Twilight is contrived, so that should have been a clue!
This episode raised my doubts again about Adam Glass as a Supernatural writer. My concern with his past scripts is that he’s always failed to get the real Sam and Dean. His characterization is weak and his dialogue is rather sluggish. I think he did that again here. It’s really no surprise that his best script by far is “Mommy Dearest,” which is the farthest thing from a character piece he’s done. He seems more suited for action plots and procedurals.
The best example of that point is the reappearance of Frank Deveraux. Compare Glass’ Frank Deveraux with the sharp tongued, cynical, wacky motor mouth we got with Robbie Thompson’s version in “Slash Fiction.” Here Frank is not anywhere as interesting or eccentric and his scenes with Dean were slow. Sure, he did have some great lines (“Gwyneth Paltrow is not a Leviathan…”) but the field scene with Dean in a cherry picker lacked a lot of entertainment value that could have come from that. I mean really, Dean, cherry picker, that alone should have been enough, but it fell flat.
I did love Frank’s very direct speech to Dean though about doing the job with a smile. Frank too entered this crazy underworld through tragedy, and it’s the only thing that’s kept him going all these years. Dean needed desperately to hear a reason for carrying on with the life, no matter how thin. He even told Frank his reason. He isn’t leaving his brother alone. That really is all Sam and Dean both need. It’s been enough for Sam, it’s so good to see Dean say the same.
Sam’s storyline followed what we expected. He needed to work. The call from Krissy, the daughter of a missing hunter, got his immediate attention. He wasn’t going to let her down. Sam is so depressed though and I can see that he’s barely managing to hold it all together. He was lacking that sympathetic spark with Krissy that he normally has with other people he’s trying to help. He was quite distant in his conversation with her in the apartment, choosing to take a professional tone. At the end when Krissy wanted to talk to Dean, Sam was there and he choose to walk ahead and wait for Dean at the car. The boy ain’t right. Avoiding people is a classic sign of depression.
The obvious sign was at the end in the car with Dean. Sam admitted he wasn’t okay and just wanted to work. Then he turned away and went to sleep, because talking about it wasn’t going to help. The brothers spent that three weeks alone not talking about their grief, and their little time apart didn’t seem to change that at all. Dean’s plight ended up just as sad, for he practiced smiling like Frank had suggested. I thought of Queen’s “The Show Must Go On.” “Inside my heart is breaking, my makeup may be fading but my smile, it stays on.” You know what, the eyes tell it all. Dean is going to need a lot of practice at faking it until he makes it.
Quite frankly, both of these brothers are bumming me out. That’s probably why this episode wasn’t very satisfying. No, I didn’t expect it to be all roses and candy canes given Bobby’s death. They aren’t even talking though. They’re swallowing their hurt and carrying on by going through the motions. That would be understandable if they were kicking ass and taking names before Bobby’s death. But they’ve been in this wimpy funk since late last season. It’s not only getting very uninspiring to watch, but I’m beginning to question what the hell the writers are doing to these characters. They’re so…dare I say it…bland. Great looking, but bland.
I’m also in the camp though that misses Castiel, misses Bobby, and sorely sorely sorely misses the Impala. I understand the point, I really do, these boys are losing absolutely everything dear to them and have to fend on their own. All they have is each other. It does make for a compelling circumstance but it isn’t just the characters that experience these great losses. It’s the fans as well. The motivation is if the fans feel this terrible loss, they’ll relate to the characters more. Okay, that’s good, except I’m not relating to the characters. They’re more foreign to me than ever! I’m still trying to work out if that’s my problem or the writers are missing something.
To be honest, I really wouldn’t even be anywhere near as sour on this episode if the MOTW plot had been interesting. It was figured out and resolved pretty easily. Sam investigates, Sam gets captured, Dean saves him (kind of), and Sam suffers physically in the process. Sure, Krissy was spunky and I really liked her, but other than being memorable by falling in the “New Kid In Town” category for jumping the shark, Krissy proved to be a far better hunter than the three older dolts chasing these Vetalas. When your lifeless heroes are challenged with “Are You Smarter Than a Eighth Grader?” it doesn’t bode well in the trying to gain confidence in your character’s department. Or plot line.
Even the classic rock choices were a mixed bag. While I’m positively THRILLED we got not one but two classic rock songs, REO Speedwagon’s “Riding The Storm Out” took me back to the days when Eric Kripke would close a downer ending with the Impala riding off the the rocking music of the Scorpions. Not appropriate! There are thousands of better, more sentimental songs to play in reflection of the tragedy that we went out with in the midseason finale. Metallica’s “Nothing Else Matters” comes to mind, but I know that can be quite expensive. Since The Scorpions has been used before, “Winds of Change” would have worked. Not my fave, but it would have been far better than “Riding The Storm Out.” If the excuse was “We didn’t want to open with a bummer,” perhaps they didn’t read the script.
On the plus side though, Traffic’s “Mr. Fantasy” couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s the classic rock equivalent of grin and bear it. It suited Dean’s mindset to a tee and it’s the ideal road song for driving at night when your two main characters are way down in the dumps.
Overall, I give “Adventures In Babysitting” a C-. I sincerely doubt it’ll make my re-watch list. Coming up, my review of “Time After Time.” That one makes this fan girl much happier.